By Daniel Hunter

Large businesses could face fines of up to £20m for corporate manslaughter, under new proposals.

A Sentencing Council review also suggested that fatal health and safety offences, such as pedestrians being killed by falling scaffolding, could carry fines of up to £10m.

The Council said the current guidelines are "vague", "lack of comprehensive guidance" and do not set upper limits.

Sentencing Council member Michael Caplan QC said he wants to make sure "these crimes don't pay".

"Businesses that put people at risk by flouting their responsibilities are undercutting those that play by the rules and do their best to keep people safe," he said.

"Our proposals will help ensure a consistent approach to sentencing, allowing fair and proportionate sentences across the board, with some of the most serious offenders facing tougher penalties."

There were 133 work-related fatalities in 2013/14, but the review found that sentences were "not always familiar with how to deal with them".

Amanda Morgan, management consultant at HR specialists Insight, said: "It can often be difficult to prove where responsibility for corporate manslaughter lies within larger companies, but it is easier to identify a ‘controlling mind’ within a smaller firm, indicating that SMEs are more susceptible to prosecution.

"Your managers represent the controlling mind of your organisation and play a decisive role in how activities are organised and executed. Ideally you will have a health and safety manager who will be able to draw a clear, auditable line throughout the company to show how health and safety policy is implemented, reported and how personnel are accountable at every stage of the HS chain.

"Responsibility needs to filter down through every company so that all staff hold health and safety in the esteem it demands. Failure to do so is a disaster waiting to happen whose repercussions could shatter a company, costing jobs, careers and, most devastatingly, the lives of the victims involved."


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